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Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Adelaide, Australia
posts: 51
Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

TRAVEL TO BALTRA AIRPORT

Your flight from Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador and will land in one of the two main airports coming from the mainland into Galapagos, one on Baltra (Seymour) or the one on San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands. Private planes flying to Galápagos must fly to Baltra, as it is the only airport with facilities for planes overnight. On arriving in Baltra, all visitors are immediately transported by bus to one of two waterfronts. The first waterfront is located in a small bay, where the boats cruising Galápagos await passengers. The second is a ferry waterfront, which connects Baltra to the island of Santa Cruz. Baltra airport has restaurants, shops and a visitor area where you can ask for maps (They don’t give them out unless you ask).

Fly to the Galapagos from Quito or Guayaquil, Ecuador. The flight from Guayaquil takes about an hour and 40 minutes and usually costs around $345 - $480. Before you leave, your bags will be hand-inspected for food and prohibited items at the airport. You are limited to 22 kg (44 lbs.) so make sure that you pack light.

Once you arrive at Baltra Airport your bags will be hand-inspected again at customs. Remember that the National Park Fee for foreigners is $100 US per person, in addition to the $10 visa fee to enter. You will need to come prepared with CASH to pay both of these fees before entering the islands. REMEMBER that Ecuador uses American dollars but locally minted Ecuadorian coins as its currency.

Take the shuttle-ferry-bus option to Puerto Ayora, this will take about an hour. First, catch the free shuttle bus to the waterfront, and then board the ferry for the crossing to Santa Cruz Island ($0.50). Once you have crossed over most tourists take the taxis to Puerto Ayora ($5 if shared with two others, or $15 if chartered) – But you can also take the bus for only $1.80. From the ferry drop off point to Puerto Ayora it takes about 35 – 45 minutes.

PUERTO AYORA (SANTA CRUZ ISLAND)

Puerto Ayora is the “capital” city of the islands and is the principal town on Santa Cruz Island. Despite this, it is actually quite a small town that is a bit dusty and run-down. The anchorage of Puerto Ayora (also known as “Academy Bay”) and it is usually extremely overcrowded. This is a full-on tourist town, with numerous restaurants and day trippers from cruise ships, etc.

The “tour” ferry from Puerto Ayora to Isabela Island leaves at 6am. COST: $30

The “Public” ferry from Puerto Ayora to Isabela Island leaves at 1:30pm. COST: $25

The trip takes about 2 hours (Depending on the boat and ocean conditions).

The “tour” ferry from Puerto Ayora to San Cristobal Island leaves at 6am. COST: $30

The “public” ferry from Puerto Ayora to San Cristobal Island leaves at 2 pm. COST: $25

The trip takes about 2 ½ hours (Depending on the boat and ocean conditions).

SANTA CRUZ ISLAND CAMPING

It is possible to camp at Garrapetero Beach. It is private land, but you just need to ask the owners for permission.

PUERTO AYORA ACTIVITIES

Sea Lions at Puerto Ayora Pier - This is a very good place to take photos of the amazing blue-footed boobies in action, especially at the end of the afternoon at sunset. You can also see marine turtles, different kinds of sting and manta rays, small sharks (it just takes a little bit of patience), sea lions, marine iguanas, crabs, pelicans, cormorants, herons and seagulls. COST: FREE

Afternoon Sea-Lions - If you walk along the water front you will arrive at the jetty where the fishermen land their catch. Each afternoon the resident sea-lions come to eat the fish entrails as the fisherman prepare their fish to sell at market.

Souvenir Shops- Visit the numerous souvenir shops that are in the main street area. As well as the usual t-shirts and trinkets, you can find locally made crafts and jewellery.

PUERTO AYORA FOOD OPTIONS

On the water front there is a jetty where fishermen land their catch for the day. Here you can pick out your preferred fish and have it cooked in front of you at the little barbecue stand from late afternoon onwards. A tasty platter will include some salad and plantain and cost about $9.

“El Chocolate” in front of the fisherman’s waterfront for as little as $4.00. Pizzas or sandwiches are medium range.

The “Galapagos Deli” offers homemade ice cream and sandwiches start at $3.50. The pizzas there get rave reviews.

The “Angermeyer Point” restaurant is good if you want a nice meal and are willing to pay a little more.

“K.F. William” is great for inexpensive, fast and tasty Creole-inspired food, but it is only open for dinner.

Ice cream is very cheap and you can walk along the water up to “IL Giardino” which is a good (but expensive) Italian restaurant, but you can get some excellent gelato for only $1.50.

PUERTO AYORA TIPS

There are ATMs available here, BUT sometimes the machine in Main Square is used for scamming. It is recommended to go to bank along water-front instead, just take your passport and obtain cash directly from the teller.

Puerto Ayora is where you'll find the best deals and possible last minute tickets for cruises and day trips (Possible to get as much as half price).

Taxi fare in the white taxi-trucks is a standard $1 anywhere around town (Warning – Some drivers will try to charge $2 for “night services” etc – THIS IS A LIE).

If you're staying on land, don't bring a lot of clothing to the Galapagos because laundry services are plentiful, cheap and fast. The best place to do laundry is in Puerto Ayora: you'll pay only a dollar a kilo ($5 will do a couple's weekly wash). Isabela and Cristobal also have laundries, but you'll probably pay 50% more there.

SANTA CRUZ ISLAND (PUERTO AYORA)

Santa Cruz is the second largest island in the Galapagos archipelago. It is also the most populated and the most central. Santa Cruz offers a lot of activities and sightseeing that don’t require a guide or a special tour. You can actually visit most of the island on your own. Puerto Ayora is the principal town on Santa Cruz Island.

SANTA CRUZ ACTIVITIES

Darwin Research Centre - Situated only 1.5 km/0.93 miles from Puerto Ayora, this is an easy walk from the centre of town. Here you will find there an interpretation centre with interesting information about the Galapagos Islands. You will also find a breeding centre and corrals where endangered giant turtles can roam safely before being returned to their islands of origin, as well as endangered land iguanas. COST:FREE

Playa De La Estacion Charles Darwin - On your way to the Darwin Research Centre there is a short trail that will lead you to this very popular beach frequented by both locals and tourists. The beach is quieter during the week and a bit busier on weekends. You can snorkel at this beach, but you will find more fish at the small beaches a few meters beyond Charles Darwin Beach. However, this further beach it is rocky and the water is not very deep. COST: FREE

Ship Ports At Night - Visit the ship ports at night for some shark viewing. The animals are attracted to the lights given off by the waterfronts. You may have to wait a bit, but if you're patient, there's a good chance you'll see some. When I was there I saw baby sharks, manta rays, sea lions and many tropical fish. COST: FREE

Bahia Tortuga (Tortuga Bay) - This is the most impressive beach on Santa Cruz and one of the largest white-sand beaches in archipelago. You have to walk 2.5km/1.55 miles South west (about a 25 minute walk) from Puerto Ayora to reach the beach via a very well maintained path through a Galapagos forest (with lots of interesting Opuntia cactus trees). Then another 1 km/0.62 miles to reach the laguna. It is an excellent place for swimming, snorkelling, kayaking or walking and is a popular beach for surfers due to the large waves. Here you can see a large number of marine iguanas, small sharks, sea turtle, crabs and many different bird species. There is also a shaded lagoon behind the furthest section of beach. Tortuga Bay is a gorgeous beach, especially in the early morning during the sunrise. They open the beach at 6 am and close it at 6.30 pm because it is a sanctuary and a nesting area for the marine turtles, which shouldn’t be bothered at night. You will have to register at the entrance and you can hire kayaks here if you want. COST: FREE

Reserva El Chato (Giant Tortoise Reserve) - Located in the highlands of the island, you'll be able to observe giant tortoises and an array of bird life like Darwin Finches, Short-eared Owls, Vermillion Flycatchers and Paint-billed Crakes. Here, you'll also have the option to visit El Chato Lagoon. COST: FREE

Lava Tunnels - While visiting El Chato you can take an indicated trail that will lead you to lava tunnels. You need a good flashlight, as it is totally dark inside. COST: FREE

Garrapatero Beach - A popular swimming beach featuring flora and fauna like birds, poison apple trees, mangroves and marine iguanas. You can also camp here, with permission. COST: FREE

Hike to Media Luna Hill (Half-moon Hill) - The hill is named after the shape of this ancient volcanic crater. It's about a two-hour uphill hike from Bellavista. COST: FREE

The Ninfas Lagoon - A 15-min walk from Puerto Ayora pier, this very quiet lagoon is surrounded by three different types of mangroves. COST: FREE

Santa Cruz Highlands – In the highlands of Santa Cruz you can see Giant Tortoises living free. You might also be able to hire a local guide to get you to other spots on Santa Cruz that are part of the National Park (and therefore require that you be accompanied by a guide).

Las Grietas - To walk here from Puerto Ayura takes about 30 - 40 mins. This site is an interesting lava fissure formed by two giant walls crossed by an arm of brackish water that filters down from the highlands and mixes with seawater. We highly recommended enjoying its clear waters, but more for swimming than for snorkelling. To get there you have to take a taxi boat from Puerto Ayora for and then follow the trail. REMEMBER to hire wetsuit/snorkelling gear in town (about $3 - $5) before you go if you want to snorkel. COST: $0.60 (for the taxi boat)

Punta Estrada Beach - A small beach on the way to Las Grietas (so you will also need to take the water taxi) that is quite good for snorkelling. COST: $0.60 (for the taxi boat)

El Rancho Manzanillo (Giant Tortoise Reserve) - In the highlands of Santa Cruz, giant tortoises roam freely in and out of farms and at the El Chato lagoon. At this farm you can see giant tortoises in their habitat. The Tortoises are very shy, and will typically withdraw into their carapaces as soon as they see you coming close. You are not accompanied during your visit, but it is your own responsibility not to bother, touch or feed these beautiful animals. To go there from Puerto Ayora you can take the bus to the airport for $1.80 and disembark at the ranch entrance, then there is an hour walk (2.8 km/1.73 miles) until you reach the ranch. But you can take a taxi from Puerto Ayora and ask the driver to wait for you if you want (this will cost between $25 and $30). The ranch offers coffee or tea, a snack and will also lend you plastic boots to walk around in. COST: $3

Bike, Horse or Kayak Hire - Hire a bike, horse or Kayak for the day. You can bike ride from Puerto Ayora to the secluded, gorgeous beach of El Garrapatero, and be sure to try the fresh breads and sweets in the bakeries in the small towns along the way.

Los Gemelos (The Twins) - The twins are two collapsed craters/sinkholes that were formed by a series of eruptions when the islands were still active. This is also the only place in Santa Cruz where you can see a forest of the endemic Scalasia tree. The place is gorgeous and worth seeing. You can take a taxi and the site is only a few kilometers beyond the Rancho Manzanillo, so you can do both in one ride. COST: $25 - $30 (for Taxi)

Playa Punta Estrada Day Tour - This is a recommended day trip. It is a pleasant beach you can reach by taking a water taxi from your boat to the Finch Bay hotel Isla Bartolome.

Garrapateros beach - About a 35 min drive from Puerto Ayora and then a 20-min walk along a trail. This is a beautiful beach featuring white sand, black lava and turquoise water where you can swim and snorkel. Here you can see blue-footed boobies, pelicans, crabs and marine iguanas. Behind the beach there is a small lagoon with mangroves where you can see flamingos, black-necked stills and white-cheeked ducks. COST: $25 (for the taxi)

3 hour Boat Tours - Rather than an ALL day tour to the islands (which can be $160 and up) you can go for a 3 hour morning or afternoon cruise around the bay at Puerto Ayora. COST: $35

Floreana Island Day Tour - This tour goes to visit “La Loberia” which is a sandy/rocky path of 900m length, covered in sea lions, marine iguanas, followed by snorkelling with a chance to see turtles. “Asilo de La Paz” which is a historical place with the ‘cave of pirates’ and a freshwater lake at 450m. In season you are likely to see dolphins and whales. COST: $80 per person (negotiable)

Day Tours - You can do day trips from Santa Cruz to 5 other islands: North Seymour, Bartolomé, Santa Fé, S. Plaza, and Floreana. Not all trips run every day and some of the more popular ones can sell out during busy times. You can only do 1 day trip a day, due to long travel times (sometimes more than 2 hours 1 way) on a small speedboat. COST: Around $120 - $150

Day Tour to North Seymour Island – This is a highly recommended day tour. The day trip will start with an early pick-up from the agency you booked with, and 45 minute ride across the island to the north where you will board you boat. Then you will be taken to North Seymour Island and have a guided tour to see the nesting frigate birds, fluffy frigate chicks still in their nests trying to make their first air-borne flight, blue footed boobies strutting their courting dance, large land iguanas, and various plants endemic to the Galapagos. Your will also be taken on two snorkelling stops. At the last stop you can walk a short way along a beautiful sandy beach to see turtle nests and flamingos feeding in the shallow lagoon behind the sand dunes. You can book a North Seymour excursion at several agencies but there is one recommended boat is called “Altamar”. This is an almost new motor launch and the service and comfort was excellent. This day trip may not go every day and it's one of the most popular, so it can get filled up very quickly. COST: $135 per person (maximum 16 people)

SANTA CRUZ ISLAND TIPS

Cheap Travel - A cheap option to get to some places on the island is to catch the bus that goes back to the airport. It can only drop you off on the main road and then you can walk to the destination that you want from there. For the ride back, don’t be late to catch the last bus (which is around 2pm) or you’ll have to stop a taxi. COST: $1.80

If you are going to a special beach, remember to hire wetsuit/snorkelling gear in Puerto Ayora before you go. COST: About $3 - $5

Rent A Taxi - The Taxis in the Galapagos are white pick-up trucks. It should cost you $1 to go anywhere in the city. If you want to go outside the city, you can negotiate a 1/2 day or full day price with the driver and he can wait with you as you visit the different sites on the island. COST: Around $30 (Negotiable)

Accommodation Prices - Guesthouses and hotels are plentiful on each island, but the term “budget” doesn’t always apply. A budget hostel usually runs around $30 – $50 per person, including air conditioning and hot showers. But lower prices can be found and negotiated with a little time and effort.

Santa Cruz/Puerto Ayora As Your Base - Using Santa Cruz/ Puerto Ayora as your main base is how you will find the best deals and last minute tickets for cruises and day trips (Possible to get as much as half price tickets). It will take some time and bartering skills, but if you have the time to invest, some great deals can be found. Note – The level of discounts can be affected by the season and the number of tours you book with the same person.

Ask Questions About Day Tours - The one thing people often forget to do is to ask questions about the boat itself. Ask the tour operator to show you photos of the boat. Also you will want to know if they have wet suits, towels etc and what the maximum occupancy of the boat is. You don’t want to be trapped on an overcrowded small speed boat, miss out on opportunities to snorkel or freeze to death because they don’t provide towels just because they forgot to tell you to bring your own.

Tour Prices - Scuba tours are the most expensive tour you can take usually at around $130 – $150 for two dives. Other tours such as snorkelling will cost around $50 per trip and highland tours will be closer to $35 – $50.

ISABELA ISLAND (Puerto Villamil)

The main town on Isabela Island is called Puerto Villamil (which is almost universally referred to as "Isabela"). Isabella Island is a delightful, laid-back kind of place, with plentiful wild life swimming around your boat (sea-lions, small hammerhead shark, penguins, various birds etc.) However, there are perhaps fewer things to do on Isla Isabella without paying for a guide. Pueto Villamil is the least developed town on the islands, and is in the middle of constructing private houses and businesses everywhere, so there piles of gravel and building materials all over the place. The good thing is that it has a long sandy white beach in front of the town, whereas on other islands you have to walk quite some way to get to a beach and you can see seals, penguins, tortoise, iggis, and flamingos just sitting in Puerto Villamil. From rom the main waterfront you can see large hammerhead and other sharks, sea horses, shoals of barracuda, turtles, sea snakes, rays, mantas, seals and penguins without even needing to snorkel.

There is a “Tour” ferry that leaves Isabela Island to Puerto Ayora/Santa Cruz at 6am. COST: $30

and a “Public” ferry that leaves Isabela Island to Puerto Ayora/Santa Cruz at 2:30pm. COST: $25

The trip takes about 2 hours.

NOTE - You cannot go directly from Isabela to San Cristobal – you have to go via Santa Cruz. Purchasing tickets 24 hours in advance for all boats is usually fine. There are several different companies so if you can’t get tickets at one office, just try another.

ISABELA ISLAND FOOD OPTIONS

“Caesar’s” -- Everyone recommends it and the $5 lunch (soup, main meal and juice) is quite good.

“Los Delfines” has an astonishing dinner deal. For only $6.60, you get soup, main (steak, shrimp, fish or chicken), desert (usually flan) and juice. Generally, the other decent-looking restaurants on Isabela charge more than twice that for dinner.

ISABELA ISLAND ACTIVITES

Beaches - If you make Isabela Island your base you can take many walks off the beaten path on truly picturesque, white sand, turquoise water beaches (These are the only beaches like this in Ecuador). COST: FREE

Laguna Salinas - This is a pristine spot where you can view wildlife, especially flamingos. COST: FREE

Muro de las Lagrimas (Wall of Tears) - This historical site was created by prisoners who were forced to build this wall from 1945-1959. Thousands died during its construction, and the site is supposedly haunted by their ghosts. There's also a really nice beach here with plentiful marine life and there are also many wild tortoises that meander across the sandy track which leads up to the Wall of Tears. If you want you can share an open truck taxi to the Wall Of Tears ($10 in total for 8 people) and then stop at various places as you walk back to Puerto Villamil, such as beaches with iguanas and sea-lions, several lagoons with flamingos and the Centro de Crianza Arnaldo Tupiza (Tortoise Breeding Centre). But remember to take plenty of water with you. COST: FREE

National Park Tortoise Reserve (Breeding Centre) - Here, you'll be able to see a species of tortoise that isn't found anywhere else in the world. It is about a 10 – 15 minute walk from Puerto Villamil and it is better than the Darwin Center in Puerto Ayora. COST: FREE

Pozas de las Diablas - The Pozas is a large pond where pink flamingos spend their time. It is about a 10 – 15 minute walk from Puerto Villamil. It is also very close to the Tortoise Reserve. COST: FREE

Laguna Concha Perla - This is a prime snorkel spot where there are manta rays, sea lions, fish, penguins, sea turtles and more. COST: FREE

Playa del Amor – Nice Walking beach

Hire a Bike – You can rent bikes to ride to isolated beaches or the wall of tears.

Local Farm Visit - You can share a truck to visit a local farm (J.C. Soto the agent can arrange this) for $4 per person. The farmer will cut whatever fruit and veggies are in season. Green pineapples, bananas and tomatoes can be chosen for later ripening; we also bought various herbs, papaya, passion fruit, melon, watermelon, peppers, capsicum, onions, etc.

Alcedo Volcano – This has the largest tortoise population and is the only volcano that visitors can climb.

Volcan Sierra Negra (Volcano) - This picturesque hike will allow you to see great views of northern Isabela. The walk will take about 4 ½ - 5 hours and is a fairly easy hike and not too strenuous because most of the walk is flat with little elevation gain. BUT do not attempt this walk in the rain, as it becomes muddy and there is NO shelter on the way. You can continue past the caldera to Vulcan Chico, which is worth the extra effort. There are places where you could hold your hand up to the rock and actually feel the heat coming out of the volcano. On the way back you can have lunch at Campo Duro which is a campground with a turtle refuge and a fruit farm too and you can also stop at a lagoon of flamingos and see iguanas crossing the road.

Las Tintoreras Day Tour – You can also get a small boat owner to take you out to “Las Tintoreras”, which are a group of small islands directly offshore. Even though the area is close by, there is more wildlife there than on the main island. It's a particularly good place to swim with penguins and see the blue-footed booby, the snorkelling is very good too. You can snorkel with sea turtles during the bay tour and see amazing amounts of Sally Lightfoot crabs on the lava rocks. Sometimes penguins swim alongside the boat, and there are sea lions and eagle rays. Las Tintoreras is covered in lava and you can see many sharks and iguanas. There is an island called “Shark Alley” where you can see sharks without getting in the water but without an official guide you cannot walk on any of the islands, so if you want to pay the extra money for a guide. You can also kayak out to Las Tintoreras – which is something to consider if you are planning a go there. COST: About $20 - $30 (Takes about 2 hours).

Volcano Day Trip – You can take a trip (which includes transport, packed lunch and a National Parks guide) to the two volcanoes of Sierro Negro and Volcan Chico. You will Leave at 7:30am and pass through the lush farming area en route to the start of the hike. This is 16 km round trip on paths which are often muddy, excepting at the top where sharp lava shale can be slippery. The views are spectacular and it is well worth the effort to do the walk. Negro is the second largest active volcano in the world. You can also hire horses to take a scenic ride through the agricultural band of land which separates the lowlands of Isla Isabella from the highlands. Ask J.C. Soto the agent if you want to meet with a local farmer and purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. COST: $35

Los Tunneles ½ Day Trip - This trip involves an exciting fast ride through the surf to the sheltered waters within. There is good snorkelling, you will see fantastic lava ‘bridges’ and a stop en route at Rocas Union. You will also stop at a sandy bay to swim with giant tortoise who feed there. COST:$50

ISABELA ISLAND TIPS

Puerto Villamil, itself is about a kilometre from the boat waterfront so you possibly will want to catch a taxi when you arrive (which is about $2).

The only agent on the island J.C. Soto (jcdesoto@hotmail.com) is truly a “Yachties friend”. He is an endless source of advice, help and information. His open fronted beach house is a pleasant place to check internet, have a beer and generally chill-out.

Make sure that you go to Isabella Island WITH CASH. There is NO ATM and no bank which will exchange money. If you run out of money then the only option is to take a day return ferry to Santa Cruz ($60 return) to try the ATM or bank there (if you have to do this REMEMBER to take your passport).

The food options on Isabela Island are really limited. There were maybe 6 restaurants that are open at any given time, most of them served almost the same types of food, and vegetarian options are really limited.

Staying at Isabella Island is a great aption. You get to see a lot of wildlife, you don’t get stuck on a boat with people you don’t like, there are friendly local children and you can just relax and chill out on the beach. There are also dives with mantas, seals and hammerhead sharks. It is a great cheap option.

The beautiful beach at Puerto Villamil, sometimes visited by Penguins and Marine Iguanas. Nearby visitor sites are the white tipped reef shark nursery, the flamingo lagoon and the tortoise breeding centre. Another option on Isabela is to hike up Sierra Negra volcano and enjoy the 2nd largest crater in the world, volcanic lava fields and great views.

SAN CRISTOBEL ISLAND (Puerto Baquierizo Moreno)

Puerto Baquierizo Moreno is the main town of San Cristobel Island Cristobal is definitely a "must see" stop for any independent traveller, free of tour agents. The town itself is attractive in a sleepy fishing village kind of way and in terms of development and style it sits right in the middle of Puerto Ayura and Puerto Villamil – not too fancy, but nicely done. The area near the port is beautiful and there is an enormous sea lion population that overruns the malecon (the main seaside promenade in town). The sea lions don't really disturb anyone; they generally keep to the ocean side of the street, while the human population mostly keeps to the other side. It's certainly an amusing site.

The “Tour” ferry from Cristobal to the Puerto Ayora/Santa Cruz leaves at 7am. COST: $30

The “Public” ferry from Cristobal to Puerto Ayora/Santa Cruz leaves at 2pm. COST : $25

The trip takes about 3 hours

NOTE - You cannot go directly from San Cristobal to Isabela – you have to go via Santa Cruz. Purchasing tickets 24 hours in advance for all boats is usually fine. There are several different companies so if you can’t get tickets at one office, just try another.

SAN CRISTOBEL ISLAND CAMPING

In San Cristobal you can camp for $5 a night at El Ceibo, the area that's home to the largest tree on the island and you can also camp at Puerto Chino with permission from the park.

SAN CRISTOBEL ISLAND FOOD OPTIONS

Look for the small “Deep Blue” restaurant on the Malecon which has good Ecuadoran food and good value (like tasty $8 entrees).

SAN CRISTOBEL ISLAND ACTIVITIES

Playa Mann (Mann Beach) - This is a great place to see sea lions up close. It is a small beach, but one of the more popular beaches due to its central location and the waters are decently calm. COST: FREE

Centro de Interpretacion (Interpretation Centre) - An informational museum that is surrounded by hiking trails. The museum offers a complete history of the Galapagos Islands and its ecosystems. Nearby at the top of the hill is a great little cafe which has delicious home-made blackberry milk shakes and blackberry ice cream COST: FREE

Las Tijeretas - This is a beautiful cove that can be reached easily from the Interpretation Centre. There are excellent lookout points at the top of the mountain. A cove below makes for a reasonable snorkelling spot, to see turtles, sea lions and various birds. It is located within walking distance of the Interpretation Centre. On the way there are several beaches, including Punta Carola, where there are also plenty of sea lions (Remember to take drinks with you). COST: FREE

El Junto – About 19 km outside of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, El Junto is one of the few freshwater lagoons in the Galapagos. You will drive through many different vegetation zones to reach the lagoon and will get an outstanding panoramic view of the island from the lookout. Here you'll view a crater lake inside an active volcano. It’s enjoyable to hike around the rim of the volcano and explore some of the forest trails. COST: FREE

Playa Cabo de Horno (Cape Horn Beach) - About a 15 - 20 minute walk from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno and has with resident sea-lions, marine iguanas and is a reasonable surfing beach.

La Loberia - About a 30 minute walk from town, this beach attracts many snorkelers and surfers, although the water can be a bit rough. The scenery is beautiful, though, and you'll see numerous sea lions lounging on the shore. COST: FREE

Puerto Chino (Beach) - This white sand beach is about 25 km out of the city, but is a great opportunity for viewing wildlife. Plan to bring a lunch and spend the day on the beach and hiking the trails around it. The white sand beach offers calm, clear waters and the chance to see a lot of wild life and unique rock formations. Climb to the top of the big, black volcanic rock formation for aerial views of the clear water and marine life. It is a pleasant spot and is a decent place to snorkel and see booby birds on the rocks (watch for their courting dances). It is also possible to see sharks jumping out of the water. COST:FREE

Galapaguera Cerro Colorado Breeding Centre of Giant Tortoises - Here you'll see the giant tortoises that the Galapagos Islands are so famous for. You'll also see baby tortoises, walk through an informational museum and possibly see the tortoises in the mating process. COST: FREE

The Tourist Information Centre - is a couple of blocks back from the front and near the church; they have free booklets and DVDs about the islands with excellent maps and picture of the various sites. Worth seeking out after you arrive.

San Cristobel Market - Up a little hill you can find the Mercado (which is brilliant on Saturdays when there is an extra organic market) the food is well priced and has very fresh avocados, tomatoes, paw paw, plums, pineapple, green apples, iceberg lettuce, papaya, etc. The Meat looks a bit dodgy, but the fresh fish is great value.

Highlands of San Cristobel Tour – This tour goes to the highlands of San Cristobal, including El Ceibo, a 300-year-old tree house and bar, El Junco, a crater lake in a volcano, La Lobaria, a white beach littered with sea lions, Puerto Chino, a soft-sand beach with crystal-clear water and the Jacinto Gordillo Breeding Centre of Giant Tortoises and includes lunch. COST: $35 - $50

Kicker Rock/Leon Domido Day Tour – First there is great snorkelling first up in a shallow, crystal clear area where you can see sea-lions swimming, marine iguana feeding on the bottom, and various fish. Then you head to Kicker Rock /Leon Domido to attempt to see Hammerhead sharks. You have much more chance of seeing them if you scuba dive as they prefer to swim deep, but this is your best chance to see Hammerhead sharks while only snorkelling. COST: $50

SAN CRISTOBEL ISLAND TIPS

There is a massive cotton tree house you can stay at in El Progresso, complete with running water. Definitely makes for a fun night that most tourists (especially cruisers) would never have a chance to do.

126 replies to this topic
Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
posts: 6,543
reviews: 73
1. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Wow, thanks for such detailed notes. This will be very useful for future travelers. Any comments on the hotels you stayed at, or did you camp everywhere? If you were camping, how did you manage toilets and showers?

Adelaide, Australia
posts: 51
2. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Ummmmm - Actually. I haven't been there yet.

I am planning to go with a friend to the Galapagos Islands in the next few months but as an independent (without cruises). I wanted to find out as much information as possible before I went, but I found it exceedingly frustrating to even find out the most basic information that I needed ("Non-Cruise" related I mean) . I have spend the last 3 days compiling any and all recent information that I could find and editing it all and putting it all into a word document. When I finished today my friend saw it and suggested that I post it online for other people travelling there who like me that find it impossible to find the information that they need.

This is actually a highly "filtered" version of what I have, so for example I did not post certain information like accommodation for 2 reasons. 1 - It is my first post and I don't know the rules on this website about naming specific businesses and 2 - I don't what to lose certain opportunities to do some things or stay in some good places because I told everyone about them and they are booked out or crowded when I arrive :) Hahaha

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
posts: 6,543
reviews: 73
3. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Haha, good point about not broadcasting good places to stay. Lots of people want to know about "hidden gems" or "secret best restaurants" -- like I'm really gonna tell them that!

It is perfectly fine for a traveler to post firsthand info and even links to businesses.

We will look forward to a trip report later and your personal assessment of the activities and such.

Toronto, Canada
posts: 929
reviews: 90
4. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Excellent post - thanks!

Chicago
posts: 160
reviews: 7
5. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Absolutely phenomenal. Thanks so much. Headed there in 4 months for 8 days on the islands. Although I've done lots of research, I didn't summarize it quite like this.

Adelaide, Australia
posts: 51
6. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

You are more than welcome amigo. Once I understood how difficult it was to find even basic information online and made the list (the original is MUCH longer - I cut it down a lot to put on this website) - My friend told me that it was my obligation to share the information I had found with other future "independent" travelers.

I will update the accuracy of this post after I go there myself in the future. I hope it helps :)

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
posts: 6,543
reviews: 73
7. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Do update your findings when you've done this trip. There's another long DIY thread in the Top Questions that your report may complement.

Adelaide, Australia
posts: 51
8. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Thanks - What is the thread name?

Do you have the link?

Tucson, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Quito, Ecuador
posts: 6,543
reviews: 73
9. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Top Question on the right "Should I take a cruise or do a land-based tour?" The link about independent travel.

New York City, New...
posts: 1
reviews: 2
10. Re: Galapagos Islands 2013 - Cheaper Options and Info

Good gawd, this is really awesome! Thank you, thank you.

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